It’s a milestone year for Plopsaland De Panne. A quarter of a century ago the doors of, what then was known as Meli Park, reopened as Plopsaland: the new home for all Studio 100 characters. This put Plopsa in a unique position, not unlike when Disneyland in 1955 opened as the home for Walt Disney’s creations, since most of my generation of Belgian and Dutch grew up alongside the studio. This IP and savvy business decisions enabled them to grow to nine parks, two waterparks, a hotel, a camping and a theatre in five countries, with even more parks on the horizon.

In 2020 I got hired by Plopsa for a complete refresh of their photography. Ranging from attraction photos to resorts, lifestyle to campaigns. This has been an ongoing process, with twenty-five shoots all over Belgium, Germany and Poland so far. When packing up our gear after our last Christmas shoot past December, my contacts hinted at some interesting visuals that they would be needing in 2024. The biggest: an image showing their brand new character parade! A few weeks later the formal request came, and we got to work. A picture says a thousand words, so I started to draw an idea on my phone. Somehow they got the gist of what I wanted to create, and they said Yes!

Layout sketch, drawn with my finger in notes. Obvious five star quality.

The Battle Plan

To create a visual as complex as this one we needed a battle plan. In total the visual would need to feature three bikes, 17 characters, 20 extras, 50 balloons and tons of confetti, oh: and show the rides as well. And don’t forget we need it in portrait, but also extremely wide landscape in very high resolution. Challenge accepted!

So the first thing in the planning process was to go to De Panne with my brand new 3D scanner (the REVOPOINT Miraco). Scanning each of their characters and importing them into Set.A.Light 3D enabled me to have a virtual line-up of characters in a virtual world. We first used this pre-viz technology for the Christmas shoot with great success. Of course this could only mean we would have to turn it up to 11.

Pre-Viz of Plopsa Express Christmas Visual
Final Plopsa Express Christmas Visual

While not perfect in colour or light, the characters are correct in scale and interactive with our virtual lights. They also will only be used for mock-ups and never see production, so there is no need for them to be perfect. In the future we will probably clean them up, but until then .. . We could use the Studio 100 Animation assets, but how would a viking like Wickie compare to a bee like Maya? Add humans to the mix and things get very complicated very fast. So using these scanned images allow us to accurately have a 3D child next to Bumba and pre-viz how an image can look.

3D scanned characters (not cleaned up)

Getting a preliminary 3D version of the bikes also enabled us to look at lens choices, character placement and the scale we would need for our studio.

The idea for the visual was to have the parade come down a street. The first issue with this was a very practical one: Plopsaland has a Main Square instead of a Main Street. This would not work on a visual like this. Second, the bikes would be delivered way past the deadline of the key art.

Both things which we would resolve with careful planning and my vendors in post: Jente from FOURSIDE studio and Kevin from Mr. seQ.

Final 3D Pre-Visualisation

It also became very clear that we would benefit from shooting every character individually so we had the freedom of picking the right pose for each character, as well as making 3D and retouching easier. This meant did not need rent out an entire studio, but could shoot it on location in De Panne. However, it did not mean we would just pop down a background, shoot every character in a row and call it a day.

Because of the staging of the image, getting the perspective right of every character was paramount. This is why we created a 1:1 plan of where every character would have to stand if we would shoot it as one, as well as a second character arrangement for the alternative visual for the French market.

Top Down floorpan of character placement

The Shoot Day

Armed with our physical plan and our 25 page document listing all the elements we would need, we descended on the lobby of the Proximus Theater, giving us a massive place to work. As usual we relied on the Hasselblad X2D-100C, as well as 5 Profoto Pro-10 packs, 4 Pro-Heads and a Twin-Head.

With part of the team marking camera and character positions with gaffer tape, we set outside to shoot all the street and attraction elements we needed. First we climbed the station of Anubis The Ride to shoot the Prinsessia castle and the Nachtwacht Flyer. Then we hit the rooftops of the Plopsa offices to get a clean shot of the Anubis The Ride track, and ultimately descended on to the parking lot for a photo of the Top Hat of The Ride to Happiness by Tomorrowland.

Next up were the facade elements that would create the Main Street feeling. We knew that there would be a magical glow coming from the back, so we did multiple lighting passes of the same photo with the Profoto Twin-Head, unleashing the 9600Ws on several parts of the facades, giving our retoucher all the elements needed to create a graduated light that would match the glow coming from the back.

A look at how we handled the studio shoot.

Next up: The Characters! Time to head into the studio. To figure out the position, we decided that the three main characters on the bikes always faced the camera, while all other characters faced the audience around them. We used raised stage platforms for the correct perspective of the character on the bikes.

We photographed each character on a white underground, with a 50% grey Lastolite backdrop. The main light was a Profoto Hardbox (The opposite of a Softbox) so we would get a crisp shadows and give a sunny feeling on the characters. We filled with the Profoto 180 Softzoom through a 3x3m 1.25 Stop Lastolite Skylite frame. Behind the backdrop was a Softlight Reflector White. On the position of the nearest bikes also was a Profoto Umbrella Deep White XL with a 1.5 Stop Diffuser for accurate light fall-off coming from the bikes.

Now to get deeply technical: per character setup we moved the studio to the accurate position where the character would stand in the visual, so we would get the proper light and eye-lines. We moved the camera as close as needed to get the highest resolution possible for a clean cutout, but always on the diagonal of where the “virtual camera” would stand. Meaning the perspective always matched the 45mm XCD viewing angle we had in our image, even if we would shoot on the XCD 135 to get as clean as an image as possible.

The “Sunlight” key and fill were always positioned on a 45 degree angle on the grid, no matter what the camera position or character position would be. This meant we would always get correct shadows. So if a character were to wave to camera left, they would be lit much harder with sunlight than the characters facing character left, which would massively aid realism. With a massive stroke of luck the theater lobby has large square stone flooring, which made laying out a grid a whole lot easier.

Because of the specific quality of light, Hasselblad colour science and the resolution required we also decided to shoot our own elements like the confetti and balloons. This made sure that all reflections and highlights matched the rest of the image. It’s easy to grab some stock photos of balloons or character shots from the archives, but people will always feel something is wrong if the catchlights and shadows don’t match. By taking extreme care in matching everything, an image that is highly produced still feels like a coherent piece.

In total we shot 1200 different photos, and finally delivered 34 individual elements for the Attractions and Main Street, 30 character & extras, 29 confetti and 17 balloon plates.

Post Production

3D Bicycle by Mr. seQ
3D Bicycle by Mr. seQ

While we were shooting, Mr. seQ was finessing the bike design, as well as laying out the entire street based on the elements that we shot. This would aid post-production immensely, as matching bricks in a panorama is one of the hardest things to get right. Once all was rendered, our retoucher could start his job. This included making a coherent street lit with a magical backlight, isolate all characters and elements and combine this with the 3D elements, all on an extremely high resolution.

The final photoshop file is a whopping 90 GB large, but as usual, our retoucher managed to lay the extremely complex puzzle within the tight deadlines needed to distribute this image.


As we had many deliverables, from standing ABRI size to an extremely wide large print for the entrance of the park we needed as much resolution as was possible, but within workable limits for the 3D rendering as well as the retouching. The final deliverable is 30.000 pixels wide, counting just shy of 500 megapixel, with extreme space on the sides, as well as high enough space for vertical like Stories.

All in all, this was a challenging project, but the care and time invested by everyone made sure we got a winning visual that will be seen all year for the Studio 100 Festival.


  • Photography / Producer: Kris Van de Sande
  • Production for Plopsa: Bert Lecomte
  • Assistants: Phaedra Quintelier, Joachim Doclot, Gunther Tijsmans
  • Retouching: Jente Willems – FOURSIDE studio
  • 3D Artist: Kevin Devroo – Mr. seQ
Studio 100 Festival Visual - Wide
Superwide variant
Studio 100 Festival Visual - Standing
Portrait variant